Thursday, December 10, 2009

Appalachian trail journal Dec. 4, 2009

I was a little sore and creaky after yesterday's 18 miles, but got moving as soon as possible because I knew today would be tough and full of breath-taking climbs and knee-jarring descents.

Today did kick my ass, but for the first time in days the sun appeared -- for all of five minutes. Its timing was great. I was standing at the high point of today's hike, the summit of Tray Mountain. For most of the day it was cloudy and cool, with high temps in the 30s. Breaks were hurried affairs. I have a more accurate gauge of temperature now because I found a clip on thermometer and compass in Low Gap Shelter.

Great views today, the best so far on the trip. To trail designers' credit, there were no PUDs (pointless ups and downs) today. Even the final climb of the day, up from Addis Gap, gave me a sunset view of distant peaks and the lights of Hiawassee below. I started the day in fog and all of the vegetation was covered in rime ice. As I descended, the ice fell off the trees in crackling lumps, startling me each time one hit the bill of my hat.

For the fourth day in a row I didn't see any other hikers on the trail. But as I took a side to Deep Gap Shelter, I saw a campfire in the distance. What a welcome sight! I talked awhile with the two section hikers. They'd hiked 3.5 miles up from Dicks Creek Gap, and were headed south. They marveled at my lightweight pack and the mileage I covered today. They were planning to spend the next two days covering the same distance. I didn't think the distance (15.3 miles) so great, but warned them that the trail is ALL up or down, a very tough section (or, as trail signs note, "strenuous"), but worth it for the stupendous views. I told them if they were lucky they'd be able to see Brasstown Bald, the highest point in Georgia, from on top of Tray Mountain, and to be prepared for a cold night if they planned to stay at Tray Mountain shelter.

I crawled into my sleeping bag shortly after dinner and fell asleep within minutes. I can't remember the last time I fell asleep so quickly. To quote Sisu, "the soreness has come and I am humbled." Yes, I am sore. But I have no blisters. I'm also sore in a unique place. I think I pulled a muscle in my ass! My right gluteus hurts, especially on climbs.

I came across a sign on the trail, "The Swag of the Blue Ridge." What the heck is a "Swag?"

From Hikes in the southern Appalachians: Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee By Doris Gove:

"The AT goes along the almost level ridgetop and then down smooth, easy trail to the Swag of the Blue Ridge (3,400 ft., 4.5 mi.). This gentle depression in the midst steep rocky mountains (like the swag, or hanging fold, in a velvet theater curtain) was a rallying point for the GATC [Georgia Appalachian Trail Club] and the coalition of conservation groups that worked for so many years to save this high ridgeline trail from road builders. When Earl Shaffer, the first recorded Georgia-to-Maine thru-hiker, came through the swag in 1948, cows, pigs, horses, and sheep grazed in the woods. He found many of the shelters on this trail occupied by cows."

From Lapine Glossary in Watership Down:

Rah -- a prince, leader or chief rabbit. Usually used as a suffix. E.g. Threarah = Lord Threar.

Roo -- used as a suffix to denote a diminutive. E.g. Hrairoo.

These definitions make my trailname, Raru, appropriate for the AT, because it is a combination of superlative (up) and diminutive (d0wn) suffixes. That's what the AT is all about -- ups and downs. Rahs and Roos. Raru. Ha!

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